A few weeks ago a young man named Jonathan Allen made a huge splash on “America’s Got Talent”. It was not just his incredible singing that got him notice, it was also that he had overcome horrific rejection from his parents because he is gay. His father had thrown him out of the house and never wanted to see him again.
Months ago, a dad writing a note hit the blogsphere. It was horrific and went viral.
It was not a recent note…it was written five years ago, but posted a few days ago, by the son to whom it was sent. The passage of time does not lessen its impact, it merely solidifies it, as the cold disregard it represents seems to be as fresh in the son’s life now as it was when it was sent . “I hope your telephone call was not to receive my blessing for the degrading of your lifestyle,” it read. “Don’t expect any further communication from me, none at all. I will not come to visit and I do not want you in my house…have a good birthday and a good life. No birthday present exchanges will be accepted. Good bye, Dad.” .
The letter comes from a father that the religious right would embrace. They would see him as a man of principle and a man of “tough love”.
I, on the other hand, am their worst nightmare. I am a gay single dad. I am the parent that Bryan Fischer targets in a tweet about a hypothetical “underground railroad” to “save” kids from gay parents. I have been told to my face that my boys and I are not “God’s best plan for a family”. Since the events that lead to the formation of our family seemed very much by the Grace of God, I have to say that I do not agree with their opinion.
My sons, Jason and Jesse are 10 years old. They were born to different drug addicted mothers, and I became their foster parent, and then their adoptive parent, and have had them since they were newborns. My partner at the time and I are their Daddy (me) and Papa (him). Papa loves and sees them on visitations, but has other life-driving events that have taken him out of our immediate family. The boys love him and even though he is not physically present much, he is very much a spiritual part of their lives.
So, to recap…. Gay, divorced, single parent…. The nightmare to the religious right. And yet, here I am, about to step up and share my perspective about this letter and fathers who reject their sons, not really from thoughts as a gay man, but from the heart of a parent…. As a Dad. So, I would like to address the rejecting fathers …and then to address my sons with a note of my own.
To the man of the note: I cannot in good conscience call you a dad. In our modern society, the parental verb “to father” means to contribute DNA material to an unborn child. You did that. Congratulations, you are now at the level of thousands of foolish teenage boys. You may have been at one time an actual Dad as well… loving, caring and wanting what is best for his child. Five years ago, you wrote a note to your biological son, however, at a time when he needed you most…and gave him less than the least you had to offer. In my opinion, on that day, you ceased to be a Dad. Your son is now the child of us, the world, and we will nurture him and love him the way you should have, and we will pray that he knows that we are there for him in the ways that you are not.
Months ago, we witnessed the spirit of a true Dad in the face of Tom Sullivan as he desperately tried to locate his son Alex at a movieplex in Aurora Colorado where a shooting at a Batman premier had occurred. Tom held the true terror in his eyes that only a loving Dad could, that something horrible may have happened to the son he held most dear.
And I can’t see the screen right now as I type this through the tears remembering the horror that, in fact, Tom’s worst fears were true and that Alex lay slain inside.
I cannot fathom the pain that Tom felt, and probably still feels. If it were either of my sons in that situation, and I in Tom’s place, all I can find in myself is a place without oxygen, without life, and a darkness so horrifying, that I don’t know if I could recover. Those are the feelings of a Dad losing a son. Those should be the feelings of a Dad losing a son.
It is from that vantage point, that I look at what you have done…willfully, voluntarily. To walk away as you have is not, in my opinion, just ignorant…. It is hate-filled, ugly and evil. I am sure there is some “walk-in-my-shoes” point of view here that I could be good enough to try and see, but right now, I do not see it, and no matter what it is, I cannot see a justification for what you have done.
Here is a letter that represents what I will be communicating to my sons in the not too distant future. I don’t want my sons to feel the need to hide in a closet to have “that” conversation at a later date. About anything. That may not be totally realistic but as they walk their path of self-awareness, I want them to have someone to talk to along the way…their Dad.
Dear Jesse and Jason,
Hi guys. You are about to become teen agers. Wow. It seems like just yesterday when God brought us into each other’s lives, that we found each other through adoption, and I had the absolute honor of becoming your Dad.
I am so amazed by each of you. You are becoming fine young men, and when I have told you that I “love you more than anything” every single day for the last ten years , I have meant it. I love our talks, our sharing, and how you tell me all about your days…how you feel about your friends. I love sharing books and movies and even hearing about the latest dilemmas and conquests within your Pokemon games. I even love that you tell me what you are afraid of, so we can face those things together.
When you were babies, I imagined what you each would be like grown. What your interests would be, what your hopes would entail and what your lives would be like. You are now about half way there, and I have to tell you… I could not be more thrilled. Getting to know you each and the bond that we have in our souls is the most profound adventure I have ever known.
In the next few years you are going to change. You are going to grow up. You are going to discover within yourselves new tastes, new ideas and new instincts. You know we have rules and principles to live by that make us good citizens, help us to never harm others and to be loving caring beings. With those, I hope you guide the new and developing you that emerges. I also hope that you continue to feel free to share with me about feelings, thoughts, aspirations and dreams that you have.
Someday, you will fall in love. As we have talked about… there are men who fall in love with women, quite a lot of them actually, and then there are men who fall in love with other men…like Papa and I did. As you develop into the men you are going to be, your instincts will tell you which of these you are. Your instincts may also tell you that you are both. I don’t know.
Here is the important point, however– I won’t care. I only care that you be happy and be the best you that you can be. I care that you strive for your dreams, that you are in touch with the spirit of the universe, I call Him God—what you call him/her or it will be up to you, and that you treat all people well along the way. I won’t care about the gender or ethnicity of your future spouse…all I will care about is that you honor and nurture each other and support each other’s value, that neither lose their identity behind the desires of the other.
Guys, I did not have you by accident. I did not have you because other people thought I should. I had you because I wanted you more than I have wanted anything… and I want to give you the greatest life possible. And I got you, I believe, because God intended for us to be a family. I mentioned before about your dreams? Well, you just heard mine.
There are things you will win, there are things you will lose and through each, you will have a champion, your Dad. I am here for you, and I always will be.
You make me proud.
In our house, closets are now, and in the future, for clothes.